An Ethics Riddle: What Do Starbucks And The University Of Virginia Have In Common?

They both called the cops on someone who was violating a policy. Only one of them, however, was accused of racism.

Bruce Kothmann, a University of Virginia alumnus, read aloud from his Bible on the steps of the school’s Rotunda this week, so university police came make him stop. He did stop, because he didn’t want to be arrested. For such public speech is no longer allowed at the public university. The Rotunda is not one of the places the university has designated for public speech by outsiders. Kothmann was on to campus because his daughter had just finished her sophomore year, but was reading from his  Bible with him to challenge the school’s  policy limiting speech on campus.

A terse reader comment on the story said, “This is basically what happened at Starbucks.” The comment is correct.

Would UVA have sent the police to silence a black parent? My guess: no, and if it had, the school would be grovelling in the dust right now, begging for forgiveness. Unless the school could quickly point to a white transgressor who got the cops called on him, a charge of race bias would be devastating, and, of course, effective.

You recall the Starbucks episode: I covered it here. Two African Americans were informed of a Starbucks policy that required those using the facilities to be customers. The men refused, the manager called the police claiming trespass, and the rest is ugly, race-baiting history. The two men could have left just as Mr. Kothmann agreed to stop reading, but that’s just moral luck. The reader was right: the episodes were the same….except for the race of the violator involved.

The Ethics Alarms position is that both policies, that of the university and the old Starbucks policy, are reasonable, with the Starbucks policy being the more  defensible, since UVA is a public university and has the First Amendment to contend with. Never mind: the news media and the social justice social media mob have little interest in a white man being stopped by police from reading that old rag, The Bible, but if two black men violating a private business’s reasonable policy have that policy enforced against them, that’s intolerable.

We have the birth of a new racial privilege, now extending beyond police shootings (a white cop can safety shoot a threatening white suspect, but not a black one) to other forms of previously justifiable conduct.

I must confess, while Starbucks was treated unfairly in this episode, I enjoy the spectacle of this particularly obnoxious, social justice grandstanding and virtue-signaling company being forced by its own hubris to turn it stores into public shelters, with all the negative business consequences this will entail. Now anyone can come off the street and use the toilets. I’m sure some will use those restrooms to shoot up. Now any homeless person can loiter in the stores. Some will panhandle from customers. Given how the poor manager of the Starbucks who called the police on the entrepreneurial trespassers was treated, black panhandlers who are adamant about their rights won’t be touched. I hope the Starbucks progressives are prepared to suck it up and be kind and generous while they are harassed at their laptops. If I were more diabolical, I might just recruit some homeless—all black, of course— to descend on a Starbucks en masse, just to see what happens.

Based on his recent comments about the incident, Starbucks Executive Chairman Howard Schultz deserves what he gets. The man said this…

“Now, we are living at a time both at home and abroad where the challenges are significant and acute. We have significant systemic issues – social issues in the country – and as a result of that, I feel so strongly that today businesses and business leaders must understand that we are living at a time where the rules of engagement for a public company are very, very different than they’ve ever been, because we must pick up the slack and, unfortunately, the lack of responsibility of the political class…”

…and then, in the same comments, proved conclusively that business leaders are completely unqualified ethically and intellectually to take up that slack, because, like Schultz, and like the political class they deplore (and bribe), they pander to what they perceive to be the beliefs and desires of their core market. Schultz said,

“I think with horror and shame what we witnessed as Americans in watching Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner and others be murdered, and there was great unrest in the country. And this is not in any way to criticize or in any way pit one group versus another, especially those people who wear the uniform of policemen every day.”

That’s double-talk worthy of the worst of the political class.  He pronounces as fact that two black men who the judicial system determined were not murdered were murdered, but says that he doesn’t want to pit one group versus another. A mixed race jury determined that Trayvon Martin was not murdered, but killed in self-defense, and no version of the evidence has ever supported the charge of murder. Garner was also obviously not murdered. The officers who caused his death were not trying to kill him, though they did, and should have been charged with negligent homicide, which is not murder.

Nonetheless, Schultz, good, rich, and arrogant, deliberately spreads the false Black Lives Matter narrative.

In doing so, he proves himself ignorant, reckless, and irresponsible, thus rebutting his claim to superior leadership skills. Letting companies run by pompous social justice warrior hacks like Schultz mess with social policy is like handing a tank over to a 10-year-old. Fortunately, condign justice awaits: soon Starbucks stores in ever city will start resembling downtown bus terminals, and stockholders will give this idiot his walking papers along with an obscene golden parachute.

Checks and balances work in private corporations too.

9 thoughts on “An Ethics Riddle: What Do Starbucks And The University Of Virginia Have In Common?

  1. When I was in college we had a local clergyman who would stand on the grass in the quad and preach at passing students. He never stood on the sidewalk, he never stood on any of the steps, if he had he’d have been removed. No first amendment problem.

    Some people might refer to that as free speech zones. We all considered it a reasonable policy that the paths and stairs were for walking, if you planned to stand around, you did it on the grass where you weren’t in anyone’s way.

    • If someone standing on the Rotunda steps is “in your way” then you may be about 100 feet wide. Your biggest concern should be that the doors are too small.

      This just might be the worst attempt possible at rationalizing this manner of free-speech restriction on campus. I’m tempted to print and frame it.

      Orations from massive staircases and verandas are such a time-honored and historic form of public speech that you might as well suggest banning podiums.

  2. Then let them become like subway stations, reeking of urine and unwashed bodies. America runs on Dunkin’! BTW, Jack, check out this ad, which sounds like a parody of the left, but is supposed to be serious.

    • Hilarious. She wasn’t concerned when he was assaulting other kids and taking their money? He doesn’t really get along with girls. Is he gay or something? What is she knocking down in that Martini glass in the middle of the day? Where’s the boy’s father, her husband? Left because she’s an alcoholic? It must b something done by The Onion. Nextgen America is a Tom Steyer funded outfit.

      • I see it said, “Paid for by NextGen Climate Action Committee;…” There’s the proof of MAN-caused global warming: Making an ad like that one (or being persuaded by it to do as it says) requires one’s brains to be baked beyond all hope for ability to sustain a Republic.

        Actually, the likely primary intent of the ad is to communicate a threat: “Fund gargantuan government programs to change global climate, or else, we’ll lock you up for denial-speech, which is hate-crime-against-humanity speech.”

  3. My guess would be that market pressure will soon start minimizing Starbuck’s profits. I would then expect the share-holders to take a rather more active role in alleviating the situation.

  4. I saw something this weekend about the coffee at Krispy Kreme donut shops having an edge over the coffee at Starbucks. I reckon it won’t be long before Dunkin Donuts coffee also gains an edge over Starbucks coffee. (I don’t know the restroom-use policies of KK or DD, and I don’t drink coffee.)

    • Plus, both KK and DD (odd, that) both have, well, you know, BREAKFAST STUFF. GOOD breakfast stuff. And both are more affordable than ‘Bucks. But neither have the snob appeal of ‘Bucks…which, I predict, will shortly be going away. And, you can count on KK and DD’s (I love that) prices going up commensurately.

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